Reshaping understandings of disability associated with age-related vision loss (ARVL): incorporating critical disability perspectives into research and practice

TitleReshaping understandings of disability associated with age-related vision loss (ARVL): incorporating critical disability perspectives into research and practice
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsMcGrath, C., D. Rudman, B. Trentham, J. Polgar, and M. Spafford
JournalDisability and rehabilitation
KeywordsAging, Biomedical Research, comprehension, critical disability theories, disabled person, Disabled Persons, human, Humans, low vision, medical research, Older adults, pathology, Vision Disorders, visual disorder

Purpose: In this paper, we have sought to stimulate a critical dialog regarding the ways in which disability has been largely conceptualized and studied in literature addressing age-related vision loss (ARVL). We suggest an expansion of this largely biomedically informed research area to include alternative frameworks, namely critical disability perspectives. Method: To demonstrate the potential contributions of adopting a critical disability approach to enhance understandings of ARVL, this article outlined the primary tenets of the biomedical and social models of disability; the key aims, emphases, and assumptions of critical disability perspectives; and provided examples of how such an approach would lead to new research foci in the study of ARVL. Results: The paper highlighted four qualities of critical disability perspectives that future ARVL research should ascribe to, including (a) a focus on interdependence over traditional notions of independence; (b) a broader conceptualization of 'normalcy'; (c) the influence of language as a means of describing or labeling disabled persons; and (d) the influence of the socio-political environment in the creation and sustainment of disability. Conclusions: This paper encouraged the incorporation of critical disability perspectives to provide new ways of conceptualizing, researching, writing about, and practicing in relation to ARVL. Implications for Rehabilitation The application of critical disability perspectives to expand the boundaries of low vision research can broaden low vision rehabilitation services (LVRS) in ways that more effectively attend to environmental features shaping and perpetuating disability for clients with age-related vision loss (ARVL). Low vision research, informed by critical disability perspectives, would inform a shift away from the exclusive focus on independence towards an acknowledgment of interdependence. The integration of participatory research approaches in ARVL research could generate new insights to inform rehabilitation by enhancing space and respect for the stories and knowledge of older adults aging with vision loss. Greater attention in low vision rehabilitation should be paid to how older adults’ experiences of disability are tied to both the environmental context in which they exist and by the limitations caused by their impairment. © 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.